Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Birthening, part 2: Tuesday, or, Things eventually start to happen

DH and I dozed in the hospital room through Monday night. Every hour or so someone would come in to check my blood pressure, so I kept waking up, but I was generally able to get back to sleep. Around 7:00am someone brought a tray of breakfast - the food was actually pretty good at the hospital - and then at 8:00 the shift changed and the new midwives came in and talked with me.

I was starting to have mild contractions, but I couldn't even feel most of them. I had a second monitor strapped to my belly that indicated when a contraction was happening, but I generally wouldn't even know unless I was looking at the monitor right when the contraction started.

Once we were up, DH and I were relaxing and killing time before the real work began. We had brought a bunch of movies on VHS because the rooms only had VCRs, so we watched "The Empire Strikes Back". We had to pause it a few times for interruptions, including the arrival of my parents.

When Mom and Dad arrived, they seriously expected something to be happening. One of us told them it would be "at least twelve more hours, maybe longer", and they expressed surprise. I'm still not sure where they picked up the idea of an instantaneous induction... especially because my sister had gone through virtually the same scenario 18 months before. We told them they should go find some lunch while the midwife checks me out. (I know plenty of women who want their mother with them every step of the way during labor and delivery, but that's just not the relationship I have with my mom.)

At 11:00am the first Cervadil was removed, and the midwife checked me: no noticeable progress. No one was very surprised.

Since I was briefly unmedicated, I could take off the fetal heart rate monitor. I took a shower, which felt lovely, and then I put on my street clothes and DH and I took a brisk walk... down the hall. We weren't allowed to leave the labor and delivery area, so we walked laps back and forth, back and forth. I had a few contractions during the walk, but they were mild enough that I could walk through them. I hoped the contractions without meds were a sign that my body was starting to do some real laboring.

Labor is so weird: I was looking forward to pain as a sign of progress. When else do you want to be hurting?

My parents return from lunch while we were still briskly walking. We told them to just hang around my room and we'd catch up with them in a moment - I didn't want to lose that last chance to move the baby down before I was stuck in the room again.

Around 1:00pm, I got a second dose of Cervadil. Ouch again. While that was happening, my folks checked in to a hotel about 15 minutes away from the hospital.

My parents returned that afternoon... with my sister, who flew in as a surprise. I stayed in the hospital bed for most of the time they were visiting, because I had an open-backed gown and I didn't want to moon my whole family. Otherwise, though, I changed positions pretty regularly in the hopes that it would help move things along.

A few hours later, the contractions finally started to pick up. They were what I would call textbook contractions: I feel a tightening low in my abdomen that then moved up my belly, stayed tight for a time, and then dissipated. DH started timing them and he saw that they were lasting for about a minute. They were becoming uncomfortable, and I found myself starting to use belly breathing and relaxation techniques from my birthing class to get through them. By around 8:30pm I was lying on my side on the body pillow I brought from home (my trusty Snoogle!), trying to catch some sleep before things got really serious. When nurses came in to check my blood pressure, I just stuck my arm up - apparently the nurses were impressed with how relaxed and prepared we were, and commented about this to other staff in the midwife office.

Shortly after 8:30pm, we turned off all the lights and tried to make an early night of it, anticipating that we'd need to rest up for the day ahead. I kept dozing off, but waking up for contractions, breathing through them and relaxing different parts of my body. DH was fast asleep on the dad-cot about 10 feet away from me, and I let him sleep... I could handle these on my own, and (though I didn't know just how much yet) I knew he'd need the rest.

A bit after 10pm, I was awakened by a contraction. It was like the others: rolling up my midsection, tightening uncomfortably... and then something felt weird. I momentarily thought the baby was kicking, really hard, in the middle of the contraction. Maybe he was, but then I felt a definitive POP!... and a second later, a warm gush between my legs.

Oh, my God. My water just broke.

I yelled for DH, who was in a deep sleep at that point, so I had to shout his name while simultaneously fumbling for the nurse call button. Mere seconds after I told the nurses "my water just broke!", a crew of women swept in, all the lights came on, and there was a flurry of activity. I was somewhat stunned at just how much amniotic fluid there was: It just kept pouring out. Of me. Weird. It was also messy, and I kept apologizing to the nurses who were trying to clean me up. My hospital gown was soaked, as were the sheets on my bed, so the bed and I both got stripped down and changed. I couldn't really walk around anywhere without making a puddle, so I just stood awkwardly in one place while the gushing continued.

Academically, I knew I wasn't peeing all over myself, but it's hard to explain that to your emotional self when warm fluid is pouring down your legs.

The midwives came in shortly thereafter and checked the scene out. One of the nurses thought she saw meconium - baby poop - in the fluid. The midwife wasn't so sure, she thought it looked clear enough, which made me feel a better, but they were all keeping an eye on the heart monitor and my temperature to make sure things weren't getting sketchy.

My water breaking on its own was a good sign, all around - labor was finally taking off, it seemed. And sure enough, the contractions that came afterward were markedly different without the cushion of amniotic fluid. It would be days later that I would admit out loud to DH that what I experienced after my water broke was what is called "back labor": every contraction, for the next 22 hours or so, was located squarely in my lower back. And they weren't periods of tightness or mild discomfort any more. They were painful.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Boob Juice: I love it/ I hate it edition

So it's been three months of exclusively breastfeeding the little guy, and now I'm back at work 4 days a week (I work from home on Wednesdays).The situation has changed, once again, so I thought I'd record the recent changes - both in circumstances and in my attitude - in list form.

Stuff I love about breastfeeding:

- Nursing is a really snuggly time. I have a super-tall baby, so he wraps himself almost all the way around me when he's nursing, which keeps us both warm on these chilly days. When I burp him after he nurses, he likes to snuggle and chat, too - it's great quality time.

- As the kiddo's personality is coming out more, he gets really cute mid-nursing session: sometimes when he's no longer starving but he's not finished with his meal, he'll take a quick break to look up and me and smile. Sometimes he does this three or four times in a row: it's like early peek-a-boo. When he sees I'm still there, he looks SO HAPPY. Bonus cute points are earned when some milk runs down his cheek while he's making faces at me.

- This is selfish, but holy crap, this is the best weight-loss plan ever. I'm within 5 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, all my pre-pregnancy pants fit, and the only exercise I've done since giving birth is walking around. All this despite the fact that I'm hungry all the time and eating like it's going out of style. This is a very nice side effect of being a nursing mom.

- So far, I haven't had an issue with supply. I built up a stash of freezer milk before I headed back for work, which has helped while I've figured out how much I need to pump in the office. Now that I've been doing it for a couple of weeks, I think things are starting to regulate, and I'm grateful we haven't really had a panic about what the kid will eat.

- Dude is growing in leaps and bounds, and everything he's eating comes from me. It seems arrogant to be proud about that, but... whatever. I'm proud of it.

- I'm a D-cup. Va va va voom.

Stuff I don't love about breastfeeding:

- I'm a D-cup. Yeah, that's hawt and all, but the need to wear industrial-grade underwire bras all day makes it a little less awesome.

- All those nice things about nursing? Yeah, that doesn't happen during pumping, which I do 3-4 times a day on office days and once or twice on days I'm home. Being attached to a milking machine feels very bovine, and a little sad because I know what I'm missing (see snuggle description above).

- If I go more than about 4 hours without either nursing or pumping, I get uncomfortable. If I go more than 6 hours, I start to feel like my chest will explode. This is a bummer, because on the occasional night when the kiddo sleeps 8+ hours, I don't get to sleep that long: I have to get up at some point and pump. And it's not like, "oh, maybe I should pump", it's painful. So some days I feel like I will never ever sleep more than 7 hours straight ever again. I know this isn't true, but it will be several months, at least, before I'll have that chance.

- My kid is great about taking a bottle, but he prefers nursing... which means he likes to make up for lost time on days I'm away at the office. Lost time gets made up at 2am. Bleh. At least I don't have to wake up at 6 to pump?

- I am concerned that one of these days I'll forget the bottles or pump parts I have to tote back and forth from home to the office... and then I'll have to take the 30-minute train ride back to pick them up. Hasn't happened yet, but I've only been doing this for a couple of weeks so far.

I will say that, on balance, things have smoothed out, and I can see continuing this nursing relationship as long as the little dude would like (or until he's 2 - that's my limit). My advice to new moms who are considering it remains that it's worth a try and it's best to ask for help BEFORE you're crying about it. Because you'll get to the point when you look forward to nursing the tot, and you kind of feel like a superhero for being the source of his food and a major source of comfort, and contented post-nursing snuggles are really the tops for both parties.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 in Review

I'm always slow with New Year's stuff, but this is the Lunar New Year, so... happy year of the Dragon!

I'm fairly certain 2011 was the most life-changing year I've experienced thus far. It was also possibly the most difficult. It was definitely one of the most tiring. At the start of 2011 year I was a childless grad student, living in the city with my husband (also a grad student) and a cat. Now I have a master's degree, and a baby, and no cat, and I live in the suburbs. I still, fortunately, have the husband (who's now a doctor... of philosophy), but now we're parents, too. Those are some big changes in one year. When 2011 started, we didn't know the life and death stuff would happen - I had no inkling I'd get pregnant this year, and of course we thought our cat would live for many more years - which makes it all a little crazier.

Overall, I'm happy to bid adieu to 2011. With everything that happened in the year, I would like to think I've grown up a little. I still consider myself kind of a kid, though, and I wonder if I will still feel that way when I turn 30 this year.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Completed and defended a master's thesis.

Gestated a human being, experienced labor, then sustained said human with milk from my own body.

Moved to the suburbs (something I said I would never do).

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Eh, maybe I'll actually make some for 2012. Can I make a resolution to make resolutions?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Haha! Me. Also: one of my coworkers, a close friend of mine, and one of my cousins. Lotsa babies.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Dear sweet Corina the wonder kitty. I still miss her daily.

5. What countries did you visit?

We stayed right here in the US. Again.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Actual open dialogue with difficult members of my family.

More money*.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 6: the day we decided we'd think about having a kid.

February 10: the day I found out I was pregnant (yeeeah, that was fast!).

The second week of June: the week from hell (found out our baby's gender, put our cat to sleep, defended my master's thesis and celebrated DH's grad school graduation).

July 8: paid off the last of my student loan debt.

July 14: Our fifth anniversary - we took a much needed, very relaxing 4-night trip to Wisconsin to celebrate.

August 1: moved to our swanky new 2-bedroom apartment in the 'burbs.

October 20: birth of our firstborn son

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finishing grad school and paying off the last of our debt were both pretty big, but I think welcoming our son in to the world kind of trumps all other achievements this year.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I still wonder sometimes: did I fail to realize Corina was getting really sick? Was I not aggressive enough about taking care of her before it was too late? I don't know.

Also, I didn't manage to birth my kid without major surgical intervention. It's dumb, but I do occasionally feel kind of like a failure for that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I'm not sure if abdominal surgery counts... with the long recovery involved, I think it should, though, so there was that.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The swing/rocker we found at a consignment shop for $3. The kiddo loves that thing.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Rent, moving costs, baby supplies, paying off the last of our debt.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Being knocked up, and telling people about it.

Learning the Speaker is pregnant (she's already in to the third trimester - I'm so excited!).

Getting out of debt (have I mentioned that enough?)

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Probably the "Women of the World, Take Over" song DH played for me while I was in labor. Or Paul Simon's "Get Ready for Christmas Day"

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Yes, both. I cried more in 2011 than I have ever cried before, but I've also been so happy at times, thanks largely to the kid, that my heart hurts.

– thinner or fatter? Slightly fatter, but I've lost most of the baby weight at this point. This is a major benefit of breastfeeding!

– richer or poorer? On paper, verry slightly richer. In reality I feel pretty broke.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Laughed, slept.

17. Wish you’d done less of?

Cried, worried.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

This was the first year in my life that I didn't spend any part of Christmas day in a car, and it was really nice.

The weekend before Christmas, DH, the kiddo and I went up to my brother's apartment and had a brunch and gift exchange with my brother and sister-in-law. It was Sunday afternoon, and we ended up hanging around until 7pm or so, watching football and just relaxing with them. Super nice.

On the 21st, DH and I loaded up an entire carload of baby equipment, gifts, laundry and of course the baby and drove the 2.5 hours to my in-laws' house. We stayed there until the 27th, and it was a pretty great week: the kiddo slept really well at night and my mother-in-law basically insisted we get out most afternoons without the baby so she could babysit. On Christmas eve we went to Mass and left the kiddo in the care of a rotating cast of family members back at the house. He seemed to like that. After church, we had chili for dinner and then opened our stockings and had Christmas cookies and egg nog. Then on Christmas morning we opened our big presents. Not surprisingly, there were about four times more baby gifts under the tree than gifts for anyone else. Our big present from the in-laws was a high chair, which we clearly aren't using yet, but I'm glad we have one.

I Skyped with my immediate family on Christmas day - we were in 4 different states. This made for a very low-drama Christmas on my side of the family, which is a Good Thing.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Arrested Development and Cheers streaming on Netflix. Oh, and Pawn Stars - we watched all of it while packing and unpacking from the move.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Since we've moved and I was on maternity leave, I had access to a good library and a bit of time to read while nursing. Of course, I haven't read anything published this year except the excellent Life with Mr. Dangerous. I'd pick The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs as one of my favorite reads of the year.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Possibly the new Paul Simon album? That makes me sound like such an old person, but it's a good album!

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

Cowboys and Aliens was one of the only movies I watched in a theater this year... but it was pretty awesome.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 29. Did the usual stuff at Silver Lake. I need to come up with something awesome for 30 this year, I think.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

My cat not dying, shit not getting weird with my parents. OK, that's two things.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Maternity wear! Fun while it lasted, but I'm looking forward to a new look in 2012.

26. What kept you sane?

Long walks with DH, before and after the birth.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Even if - or especially if - you just had a baby, people aren't going to give you what you need, especially if your real need is for time and space to adjust to the way life has just drastically changed for you. You have to claim it or you just won't get it.

On the other hand, sometimes you will be blown away by the generosity and thoughtfulness of people with whom you're merely acquainted. The neighbor with no kids of her own may turn out to be your dinner-and-diapers-delivering postpartum angel. Never discount folks like her.

Here's to 2012!

*Since big mommyblogger dooce and personal finance blogger JD Roth both just announced they're splitting with their spouses, I would like to note that I'd rather stay relatively broke and happy in my marriage than filthy rich and alone. Seems like it should be obvious, but it also seems like those people could afford marital counseling...